I have begun the difficult but exciting process of carefully thinking about what specific issues a new Republican party can run on in the future (planning for 2012, but we may be ready for 2010).
Steps for Success
Our problem is the party's race relations. For decades now Republicans (and even conservatives in general) have very successfully been labeled as racists and bigots. Yes, this is very largely because our opponents have driven this message to the public, but ultimately it is our fault for not working hard enough to selling ourselves and our accomplishments in this area.
- This starts with our history as the party that ended slavery under President Lincoln, but continues right up to President George W. Bush's very racially diverse administration. We must build grassroots marketing campaigns to make sure the public (especially young people) know that the Republican party is the historical party of racial liberty and opportunity. These grassroots campaigns should start on popular Internet social networking sites and conservative blogs, but could eventually create multimedia advertisements to be picked up and distributed on broadcast stations by political organizations with money. We will receive much ridicule from the left at first, but if we stick to these campaigns we can at least get this out into the "public consciousness" so it isn't such a strange idea when 2012 comes around.
- Reach out more to an ethnic population very often overlooked by both conservatives and liberals: Native Americans. With the power of charities and grassroots fundraising, we can take the message of self-reliance and hard work to the communities that are trapped in alcoholism and welfare. People may scoff at this, but it would go a long way not only to helping Native peoples, but also our reputation among the public. And assuming initial success we could expand the message to immigrating Hispanics, who oftentimes identify themselves with mixed Native heritage depending upon the region they come from.
- And the hardest, but most important one: we have to take a long, hard look at our traditional stance on immigration. Does this mean accepting "Amnesty"? No. But it does mean being willing to come up with creative solutions to the problem and packaging those solutions in digestible ideas for sound bites and campaign slogans to persuade people. Below are ideas on how a Republican immigration plan can look and be marketed. The bottom line is that we have to be willing to bend a little on this issue and heavily market this in order to ever overcome our unfair reputation as the anti-immigration party.
- We have to also work harder at digging up hard examples of how welfare and big government nanny-ism hurts immigrant families in the long run. Counter that with hard evidence of how entrepreneurship and learning English in these families leads to greater success. And when we have these examples and raw information, we need to package and market deep inside ethnic communities (Spanish-language television stations, newspapers, churches and other organizations).
Assuming Senator John McCain decides to stay in office after this election, he would be a tremendous asset to this immigration campaign. He has championed borderline Amnesty immigration reform, but if we come up with solutions that are less strict than we traditionally have pushed, we could convince him to meet us half way. He has also been a huge advocate for Native Americans in his time in the Senate (which is something I am sad never was brought up during any of his stump speeches or television spots), and his reputation in this could lift up other Republican politicians that work with him (legislators or governors) and provide them a foundation to build on.
Are there any other Republican politicians that are working on immigration reform or relations within the Native American communities?
Some ideas for this future immigration reform, for your consideration to get discussion started:
- Whatever programs for helping educating and integrating immigrants into America must come from charities and other private sources, not the federal government (although state governments would be free to partner with these programs, of course). The federal government may help co-ordinate these disparate organizations so that people in need of the services have a single website and phone number to get information from, but that is the extent of government involvement. We can start here by making a list of existing charities that are in this field already.
- It may be necessary for some federal taxpayer money to be used to help these programs with their expanded administrative costs at first, but even if this is true any annual financing should have an automatic expiration date that fades away over a set number of years.
- A combined guest worker and academic study program with a defined path to citizenship. Allow a certain number of people from all over the world to come to the U.S. for 2 year blocks of time to work or go to school. They would never be eligible for the welfare programs, so if they loose their job and can't find another one to buy food or health care, their guest permit is revoked. They must show some level of English, although wouldn't have to be fluent (that should come while they work or learn here). If they break any significant crime they would loose their guest permit (drunk driving would be enough, but a speeding citation may not).
- The above guest worker/student program can be used to funnel all potential citizens into our country. Therefore, there would not be any hard line between foreigner one day then full-blown citizen the next. Everyone would come in to work or learn while proving to the government they can follow the laws and become fluent in English in order to attain full citizenship.
- I do not think the guest worker/student program should cost the foreigner much money. It should be cheap and easy to become a "guest" for at least 2 years. Their presence in the country by paying taxes and being productive would be benefit enough to our economy. However, the costs for becoming a full citizen should pay for themselves through application fees. Even at most I don't expect that to be more than $2,000, and even that may be high.
- Give all applicants in our current system that have been waiting more than 2 years a priority treatment to become guests as soon as possible, and waive their application fees to become citizens when they are ready (assuming they meet all qualifications).
- To become a guest worker, the individual must apply through a U.S. Embassy in their native country (or an auxiliary office of the Embassy in large countries). There would not be any way to apply within the USA, therefore encouraging immigrants who are here in the U.S. illegally to return home first. We would allow them to leave in peace, and in fact may even set them up with charities or other programs to help them pay for the trip back. Once they properly apply, they may be given a priority treatment to become guests because of the prior experience with the U.S., but it would not be greater treatment than those immigrants who are grandfathered in from the old system.
- And of course, securing the border is an absolute requirement. Leaving it open and unguarded is a huge national security risk as we all know. I believe we can successfully sell this to the public if our plans for legal guests and immigrants is seen as accepting and humanitarian enough. The only real questions are whether this secured border would be a physical wall (sorry, a "fence" isn't going to cut it), or a virtual one of cameras and UAVs patrols in the air. I'm leaning towards the virtual one. And also whether the National Guard would be involved by activation by the federal government on short term rotations (3 months would be best).
If we fail to reclaim the label of racial liberators, then the Republican Party will fade away, faced with a Democrat Party constantly growing off of changing ethnic demographics all over the country. The two party Republican/Democrat dynamic would eventually be replaced by a split in the Democratic party between their far-left and left-of-center factions. Yes, the core conservative heart of the American public will live on, but an organization large and sufficiently funded enough will not be there to empower them.
A disclaimer: I am a conservative, but registered Libertarian, not Republican, although that may change in the future depending where the party goes.